Singapore – Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chairman and President-Elect of the International Society of Infectious Diseases (ISID), Dr Paul Tambyah, held the fifth episode of his Ask Paul Anything series where he answered burning questions from the public through a live video conference.
On Friday (June 19), Dr Tambyah’s APA episode received more than 20,000 views with people tuning in to hear their concerns regarding issues like Covid-19 get answered by an expert.
After giving a shoutout to those who chose to stay home on the first day of Phase 2, Dr Tambyah jumped right into the first question which was about him leaving Singapore for Boston when he takes his role as the President of the ISID. He confirmed he would not be leaving the country. The leaders before him would take three to four trips to Boston in the past; however, post-Covid, Dr Tambyah doubts the same setup is applicable.
“Are we the first in the world to adopt ‘Phase 2’ when there are still dormitory infections? Does WHO not have guidelines on this?”
Dr Tambyah used Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, which also had large outbreaks among their migrant worker dormitories, and noted that they too have begun easing up on their social restrictions. He explained the pros and cons of lifting lockdowns and the risks involved in both options.
“Why to-date, if actions are wrong, our medical fraternity remain silent? Over the past, only a few doctors voiced out?”
Dr Tambyah linked this behaviour, in part, to the culture that Singapore has, where people are reluctant to voice their views in public, but “I can tell you, doctors have voiced their views on numerous medical fora.” He noted that early on in the pandemic, the Ministry of Health created chat groups for different medical school classes, and how his chat group consisted of medical professionals upset about masks, PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), testing and other issues.
“In the public, the decisions are made by the ministerial committee, and this is the face of Singapore’s Covid response which is a little bit different from SARS,” said Dr Tambyah. It was the doctors who led the response to the SARS epidemic while the ministerial committee stayed in the background, he added.
“Where do you think the PAP (People’s Action Party) is heading with Singapore, given they win the next GE to form the government?”
Here was Dr Tambyah’s reply, “You know, this is very unfortunate, but the reality is the PAP has a very high chance of winning the next GE and forming the next government. The disappointing thing is that they seem to be running the same old programs as before, where they seem to focus on corporate welfare and ignoring the needs and aspirations of ordinary Singaporeans. So what can we do about it? Well, we can deny them a two-thirds majority by electing quality alternative party MPs from the SDP and other credible opposition parties. That way, they cannot change our constitution at will like deciding an unelected-President to become an elected-President. All these kinds of constitutional changes can only be made if you have a two-thirds majority. Then, if we have more than a third of Parliament made up by alternative party MPs, we will have a strong system of checks and balances; and that could only strengthen the society.”
“What are the relevant precautions against the coronavirus given the confusing instructions by the multi-ministry taskforce? Will teams be on standby in anticipation of an explosion of cases due to mass voting?”
Dr Tambyah explained that what they have learned thus far about the virus matched what they have known from the very beginning, wherein Covid-19 is similar to other respiratory viruses and spreads through close contacts and droplets. “The key to prevention is good hand hygiene and mask use, especially in crowded places where you might encounter infectious people.”
Regarding the risks of holding the elections during a pandemic, Dr Tambyah said that despite those in the medical community standing against such a decision, “we have no choice if that’s the decision of the ruling party.”
Dr Tambyah also answered questions on the number of foreign workers in Singapore and the country’s dependence on them, the outbreak and how it could have been avoided among foreign worker dormitories, CECA (Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement), the recent opening of borders to business travellers and the risk this entails for imported cases, and more.
Watch the full episode below:
Ask Paul Anything (APA) Episode 5
Posted by Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) on Friday, June 19, 2020